City of Snow: The Great Blizzard of 1888


It was Sunday morning, March 11, 1888, and rain was falling, spraying a steady tempest from heaven.

With spring just around the corner, New Yorkers have no reason to suspect that one of the United States's greatest natural disasters is brewing. By Monday evening a ferocious blizzard would completely shut down the largest city in the country.

Trapped by the storm, a young girl and her family struggle on as even the smallest daily routines of ...

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It was Sunday morning, March 11, 1888, and rain was falling, spraying a steady tempest from heaven.

With spring just around the corner, New Yorkers have no reason to suspect that one of the United States's greatest natural disasters is brewing. By Monday evening a ferocious blizzard would completely shut down the largest city in the country.

Trapped by the storm, a young girl and her family struggle on as even the smallest daily routines of life in the city grind to a halt— electric and telegraph lines go down, trains and buildings alike are buried in the snow, and the streets are impassable, with no way to deliver fresh food, milk, or coal for heat. Life must go on, but both the family and the city are forever changed by the awesome might and majesty of the Great Blizzard of 1888.

A pivotal moment in American history vividly brought to life by Linda Oatman High's free-verse narration and Laura Francesca Filippucci's detailed, timeless illustrations.

A fictionalized account, told in free-verse poems, of a young girl's experience living through the 1888 "Great Blizzard" in New York City.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Free verse tells the story of the entirely unexpected and devastating snowstorm in March of 1888 which immobilized New York City (and much of the East Coast though the book doesn't say). In spite of the weather, a young girl from a well-to-do family insists on viewing the famous Barnum circus and performs her chores religiously in order to sway her parents. As the family makes its way through the storm, they see "crushed storefronts/and sparrows frozen in snow,/blown and tangled telegraph wires." But the show does go on, even if it plays to a near-empty house. Later, text and pictures show this wealthy family going on cheerfully despite the hardships the storm must have wreaked on others less fortunate, making this version less frightening to children but also less balanced. Parts of this are informative, such as the pictures of carts carrying snow out of the city to be dumped into the river. But the pretty watercolor illustrations with pastel and ink highlights evoke little emotion or the drama of the event, and the characters stare blankly at the action. The hybrid text is mostly free verse, but occasional end rhymes suggest rhythmic poetry while skirting it at the same time: "It was only a few blocks/to Madison Square,/so I begged Papa for us to walk there." These often forced rhymes create some skewered syntax, such as "...the newspaper did assure." Young readers may be introduced to this event by this book and learn more about the storm in the author's note, but Jim Murphy's book for older children, Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America (Scholastic, 2000) truly fills in the gaps with more dramatic text, judiciously selected contemporary accounts, and primary sourcephotographs. 2004, Walker, Ages 5 to 9.
—Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3-This fictional account follows the days before and after the storm through the eyes of a girl and her family. The story is told in free verse and the rhymes are either odd ("Howling winds rattled the windows/like careless thieves,/and the eaves wheezed") or much too flowery for picture-book readers ("we battled the blizzard,/which was like a wild animal/rattling a cage"). While the realistically rendered illustrations, done in pen and ink and watercolor, give an accurate and interesting view of 19th-century New York City, the text is static and dry, without the benefit of lively or exciting details. At one point, the family trudges through the snow in order to attend a circus performance, which seems bizarre given the severity of the storm. Carla Stevens's Anna, Grandpa and the Big Storm (Puffin, 1988) or Charles M. and Margaret K. Wetterer's The Snow Walker (Carolrhoda, 1996) are much better titles on this blizzard.-Susan Lissim, Dwight School, New York City Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Written in an odd mix of rhymed and free verse, this middle-class-child's-eye view of the Blizzard of 1888 offers a compelling picture of the disaster and its aftermath. Though the young narrator is able to persuade her father to take her to the circus in Madison Square, by the time they're slogging home, "Our faces glazed crystal, / we battled the blizzard, / which was like a wild animal / rattling a cage, / attacking and fighting / all in a rage." From a priceless cover scene of tiny figures sliding across the frozen East River beneath the Brooklyn Bridge, to views of passengers being rescued from a stalled elevated train, Filipucci's neatly drawn city scenes effectively capture both the period look of New York's streets and the catastrophe's scale. But she does it in a lighthearted way that underscores the resilience of the city's residents. High links present and past at the end, noting that New York's electrical lines and public transportation went underground as a result of the storm. An absorbing lead-in to Jim Murphy's Blizzard! (2000). (author's note) (Picture book. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802789105
  • Publisher: Walker & Company
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 10.82 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.33 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Oatman High is the author of fifteen books for children and teens. In addition to writing for children, she is also a journalist and songwriter who has played in several bands. Ms. High lives in Narvon, Pennsylvania, with her family, which includes a golden retriever named Angel and a Bichon named Ozzy.

Laura Francesca Filippucci was born in Milan, Italy, where she attended the Istituto Europeo di Design. She later specialized in children's-book illustration at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. She has worked for European and American magazines and publishers, including Simon & Schuster and Charlesbridge. Ms. Filippucci lives in Milan with her husband, also an illustrator, three children, and some goldfish.

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Read an Excerpt

City of Snow

The Great Blizzard of 1888
By Linda Oatman High

Walker & Company

Copyright © 2004 Linda Oatman High
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0802789110

Chapter One

It was Sunday morning, March 11, 1888, and rain was falling, spraying a steady tempest from heaven. It drenched our heads and my best dress as Mama and Papa and I left church, umbrella-less. Purple and yellow crocuses shone in the stone gray afternoon. Springtime would soon arrive in the city of New York. The windows of stores were glorious, with mannequins wearing the springtime fashions as we rushed past, splashing and dashing through the wet weather, hurrying home to a Sunday dinner at the dismal end of winter. It rained Buckets all Sunday, and our roof began to leak. Our kitchen floor sopping, I prayed while I mopped, for the rain to stop. Tomorrow morning was P. T. Barnum's circus expedition. I'd been saving my money for the fifty-cent admission. Bargaining with Mama and God, I promised to be good and to cheerfully complete every chore, if only I could see Barnum's most famous tour: "The Finest Assembly of Trained Animals Since Noah," the newspaper did assure. Gazing at the rain making a lake of New York in the fast-growing dark, I thought perhaps Papa should build us an ark so we'd be sure to embark on our circus-day lark. By nightfall the rain had turned to snow, and gutters churned with slush. Sleet balls plinked across our roofs, above the house's nighttime hush, ice clip-clopping like a hundred horses' hooves. Howling winds rattled the windows like careless thieves, and the eaves wheezed, heaving as if the house were breathing. I slept as fitful as the wind and woke shivering in the night. The temperature had dipped, and whips of coldness crept through cracks in the plaster wall. Quivering in my quilt, I saw a sliver of white through my window, pale as a pitcher of milk. I leaped from my bed at daybreak, and ran straight to look out my window. What was below made my eyes ache: the blinding white of a city of snow. There were no roads, no wagons hauling loads, no ponies, no paper, no people, no milk, no meat, no streets, no trains on tracks, no teams, no hacks, no sidewalks, no paths, no thing but snow. Papa couldn't get to his job, and our old horse, Bob, was too hobbled and wobbly legged to pull our carriage through the drifts to the show. Gentle Bob stood patiently waiting for me to come skating with apples and carrots to his stable. His dappled back rippled as he whinnied and trembled. I whispered in Bob's ear, telling him not to fear. Even though the snow was fiercely wild, I was sure that the weather would soon turn mild. It was only a few blocks to Madison Square, so I begged Papa for us to walk there. Bundled in boots and wool, scarves and gloves and hats, Mama and Papa and I ventured outside like nervous cats but plodding like mules. Bitten by a bitter wind as we trudged in slow single file, we pushed and leaned, seeing crushed storefronts and sparrows frozen in snow, blown and tangled telegraph wires. We walked and walked, and as we trudged along, I crossed my fingers and hoped that P. T. Barnum's show would go on. We finally arrived at Madison Square, happily relieved that the circus was there. Lions and tigers and bears, a daring girl on a high-flying trapeze, a clown with a red-nosed sneeze, dancing dogs and prancing ponies, eighty-six fabulous acts in all. "The storm may be a great show," said Mister Barnum, in all his mirth, "but I still have the greatest show on Earth!" Applause scattered within the almost-empty big top, and all that mattered was that the fun would never stop. When the circus ended, we left the red tent and stepped, bent, into the quick icy wind as hats and trash whipped from the wind's wicked lash. Our faces glazed crystal, we battled the blizzard, which was like a wild animal rattling a cage, attacking and fighting all in a rage. The trolleys and trains could not move, and passengers were rescued, their faces white-blue. My lungs squeezed, and I could hardly breathe, as we hiked slowly toward home. We huddled by the stove and peeled off clothes that had froze. We decided to make the blizzard an occasion of celebration by having our own snow-party jubilation. Eating snow ice-cream with syrup, savoring the sweet, frosty flavor, Mama and Papa and I made party favors and played games with neighbors. Some whittled, some fiddled, some told riddles or sang hearty old songs to pass the time along. All day Monday, all Monday night, all day Tuesday, all Tuesday night, the blizzard continued its sharp, icy bite, coating the city with a blanket of white. The street outside was covered in wires from a fallen pole, and we were running low on milk and meat and coal. Now the blizzard wasn't as much fun as it had been when first begun. By Wednesday pedestrians tested their muscles, attempting to bustle through high piles of drifted snow. But swiftly whirling winter winds twirled them like little dolls. Bulky in layers of clothing, the walkers wore blizzard fashions dug from trunks hunkered in attics: dusty and musty hats and caps, skins of cats, bears, and muskrats all joined the scarves and mittens of many colors whisked away by winter winds, looking pretty as they littered the city. The blizzard ended Wednesday night, leaving behind a city of white.


Excerpted from City of Snow by Linda Oatman High Copyright © 2004 by Linda Oatman High.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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